One of the first test pilots to operate the J-20 fifth-generation aircraft said it could be upgraded with a 2D thrust vectoring nozzle for its engine. Credit: Handout.

Covid may have put a damper on 2020’s Airshow China, but 2021 is looking good, officials said in a statement on Sunday and reported by Global Times.

Make no mistake, China uses these events to showcase the latest and the greatest, a chance to flex its muscle and impress foreign military rivals — and this year could be the greatest ever for the Red Dragon.

Some of the most advanced warplanes in the fleet of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLAAF) Air Force will be invited to perform at the 13th edition of Airshow China — also known as the Zhuhai Airshow since it will be held in Zhuhai, South China’s Guangdong Province — which is scheduled for late September and early October.

Originally planned for November 2020 but postponed to this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, preparations are going smoothly, the organizer said on Sunday, at the 100-day countdown to the event.

The event’s organizers will invite the PLA Air Force to put its advanced warplanes and equipment on display, in particular the latest planes that were featured in China’s National Day military parade in 2019. Those aircraft will deliver flight performances, the statement read.

While officials did not elaborate on the exact types of warplanes, some of the latest aircraft featured in the 2019 parade included the J-20 stealth fighter jet, the H-6N strategic bomber, several types of special mission aircraft, as well as a type of armed reconnaissance stealth drone, the GJ-11, which was only carried on a truck and did not fly at the parade.

According to Global Times, future variants of the J-20 could soon be equipped with “a secret weapon,” which would make it competitive with its US counterpart, the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.

Li Gang, the Chinese test pilot who first took the controls of the J-20 Mighty Dragon, was asked this month during an interview with the Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV, about his expectations on the future development of the fighter aircraft.

The armed reconnaissance stealth drone, the GJ-11, which was only carried on a truck in the 70th anniversary military parade, could be making its debut at the 2021 Zhuhuai Airshow. Credit: Handout.

He confirmed that it would soon be equipped with engines with 2D thrust vectoring nozzles, giving it maximum maneuverability.

China’s independently developed Wing Loong II armed reconnaissance drone, which was a hot item in several previous air shows but only in static displays, might also give its first dynamic demonstration at Zhuhai, the statement said.

According to reports, Wing Loong II is a medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAV. It is 9.05m long, has a wingspan of 14m, and its height is 2.77m.

The drone’s expected take-off weight is 1,100 kg and it can carry additional loads of 200 kg on external stores. The drone has also been acquired by China’s close ally Pakistan.

The PLA Air Force’s August 1 Aerobatic Team and the Red Eagle Aerobatic Team from the Aviation University of the PLA Air Force will also give performances with J-10 fighter jets and K-8 trainer jets, respectively.

About 400 companies from China, the US, the UK, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Russia, Canada and Brazil, including internationally renowned ones like Boeing and Airbus, as well as China’s top aviation and arms firms have confirmed their participation at the 100,000 square meter show.

This includes the Aviation Industry Corp. of China, China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp., China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp., China North Industries Group Corp., China Electronics Technology Group Corp. and the Aero Engine Corp. of China.

The China State Shipbuilding Corp. will for the first time bring maritime defense products to the show, the organizer added.

The Zhuhai Airshow has become a comprehensive arms exhibition that not only features aviation products but also land and maritime weapons and equipment, plus civilian-use products.

Since it was postponed for a year, it is even more highly anticipated, and more surprises could await, officials said.

Visitors must book tickets online starting mid-July, as no onsite ticket office will be arranged for the event, and strict Covid-19 prevention and control protocols will be established, according to the organizer’s statement.

Sources: Global Times, National Interest